An Excellent Teacher is Humble
When Giving a Talk at Harvard, Remember Icarus
By Rafi M. Ali, M.D.
Director of DarusSalam Seminary’s Tadrīs Integrated High School Program
As is well known, positions of authority are fertile grounds for the most dangerous human emotion — pride. In teaching, pride ruins everything it touches. A prideful pedagogue, in blissful ignorance, wrongly removes moral integrity from being a fundamental aspect of an educated personality. In other words, a prideful teacher assaults the goals of education at the very alter where they ought to be venerated.
Students are justifiably repelled by overtly arrogant instructors. Such ogres should receive our most profuse encouragement to consider retirement. More commonly, however, it is the less overt victim of pride, sufficiently intoxicated by knowledge and hubris, yet insufficient to register on the self-disciplinary radar, that perpetuates damage in a classroom and poisons the souls unawares. We must be aware of all such encroachment of danger and check our own impulses to elevate ourselves to a station undeserved.
Malcolm X relates the following episode in his autobiography:
“I was the invited speaker at the Harvard Law School Forum. I happened to glance through a window. Abruptly, I realized that I was looking in the direction of the apartment house that was my old burglary gang’s hideout.
It rocked me like a tidal wave. Scenes from my once depraved life lashed through my mind. Living like an animal; thinking like an animal! …But Allah had blessed me to learn about the religion of Islam, which enabled me to lift myself up from the muck and the mire of this rotting world…Standing there by that Harvard window, I silently vowed to Allah that I never would forget that any wings I wore had been put on by the religion of Islam. That fact I never have forgotten…not for a second.”
Humility is the hallmark of an Excellent Teacher.
. Malcolm X et al., The Autobiography of Malcolm X (New York: Ballantine Books, 2015), 313 – 314.